I'm about the average weight for my age (17), I'm fairly active, I enjoy walking and cycling but I don't particularly exercise at home or at a gym.

I've started a college course studying arboriculture (tree surgery). I've been learning to use a chainsaw at ground height and I've been advised to do some upper body exercises to build up some muscles and reduce back pain.

In the second year of my course I'll be spending more times climbing and cutting trees, so it might be worth thinking about suitable training.

  • 3
    I would just go Starting Strength for a while, can't go wrong with it really (or Stronglifts).
    – VPeric
    Sep 27, 2012 at 23:46
  • 1
    OT, but you're gonna get yourself some chainsaw pants that go all around your leg, right?
    – Robin Ashe
    Oct 2, 2012 at 21:52
  • @RobinAshe Yes. Chainsaw boots, trousers, helmet, gloves, etc will add extra weight and restrict movement somewhat.
    – user4343
    Oct 3, 2012 at 12:51

4 Answers 4


First, get strong

People who haven't yet done strength training should generally avoid overly task-specific exercises. Instead, they should get strong generally. As Mark Rippetoe puts it:

Strength is the most general adaptation. It is acquired most effectively through exercises that produce the most force against external resistance, and as such is always best trained with five or six basic exercises. The same exercises that are correct for weak football players and lifters are correct for weak volleyball and baseball players, because the best way to get strong will always be the same. Strength is NOT specific, and cannot effectively be acquired through exercises that mimic sports-specific movements, because these movements lack the potential to produce as much force as general barbell exercises, and therefore lack the capacity to make weak athletes as strong as barbell training.

The first place people look for the purpose of rapid general strength gain is generally Starting Strength (the wiki is as quick-and-dirty as possible; the book is the best and most detailed overview on this topic I've ever seen) or StrongLifts (ebook sign-up), which is most appropriate for non-athletes or people who have been inactive for several years. Either of these would be fine.

However, any simple beginner barbell strength program would also be fine. Per Mark Sisson's overview:

The foundation of your routine should be the big compound lifts: squats, deadlifts, presses (bench and overhead), pull-ups, rows, dips, snatches, power cleans, clean and jerks. These engage multiple muscles while triggering your hormonal response systems.

Just steer clear of bodybuilding routines with tons of exercises, machines, and high reps (8-12).

Then, specific strength

After you have some general strength (and not before!), I would recommend focusing on exercises that involve maintaining posture against heavy loads, as well as upper body strength, particularly grip work. To me this means deadlifts, farmer's walks, Turkish get-ups, pull-ups/chin-ups, and presses.


I'd probably start with deadlifts and high rows/pulls. Maybe kettlebell swings or non-KB-equivalent.

Make sure you work antagonist muscles as well, however.

For climbing you'll be using spikes and a belt, you shouldn't need to do too much specific, although I knew a lot of arborists that were also climbers, which transferred really well.

  • 1
    Please explain the downvote so others can learn. Oct 5, 2012 at 16:18

Firstly, I know very little about arboriculture.

As a general point I would start off with a program that increase strength overall. Something like Starting Strength.

I could be wrong but to me this kind of work would also involve a lot of climbing so prehaps as a more specifc routine, you could incorporate some strength training specific to climbing.

As the article suggests this training involves a lot of pulling exercises like pull-ups and exercises that work the core.

Hope this helps.


Being a tree surgeon myself and climbing daily, I think you need a good balance of strength and endurance, because yes you need to be strong but you also need to last all day. I'd say body weight exercises are the best because having too much muscle mass will make it hard to move around the tree (ALTHOUGH IT DOES BENEFIT WHEN MOVING LOGS.) I suggest pull ups, muscle ups, dips, press ups, etc, mixed with compound lifts like deadlifts and overhead presses.


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